Film Resume: Create One That Stands Out
What makes a film resume different from a regular resume?
Well, the truth is, there’s not that much of a difference. However, a film resume not only highlights skills, it also highlights productions you have worked on and people you have worked with, so it is organized a little differently. If you are just starting out you will be put more emphasis on skills, and as you gain more experience, you will put more emphasis on productions and job titles. For example, if you have no film experience at all and are hoping to get an entry-level job, which is usually an “Apprentice,” an “Assistant,” or a “Production Assistant,” (known widely as a PA and works for a specific production), you can market your non-film-related skills, such as the ability to organize files, manage crowds, or work with spreadsheets, etc. On the other hand, if you are an Editor with experience on multiple films, there is no need to explain what an Editor does. That information is a given, and what people will likely be looking for is a strong track record or the ability to handle special effects or the sensibility to edit a strong dramatic piece. They will also want to see a reel of your work at this point.
So what do you put on a film resume? The bottom line is that production heads are looking for relevant experience, but most importantly, they are looking for people who work hard, have a great attitude and take direction! Everybody has to start somewhere but there are things that can help you stand out.
Start With How People Can Reach You
Ok, this is obvious, so I won’t waste much time on it, but I have to remind you because I have read resumes with no contact information. So make sure you put your name, cell phone number and email address on the top of the page. Your name should be bigger than your contact information and if you are a member of a union this is where you would put that information.
State Your Goal
By stating goals or interests you help people categorize your resume. Your long-term goal might be to direct, but right now, you are starting out or are still on your way, so your goal should be to learn, hone skills and meet people. But how do you word that on a resume? Many resume templates have a section for “personal statement,” “goals,” or “summary.” Other templates jump right into “qualifications.” You can do either, but it’s a good idea to start with a “you, at a glance” statement to help those sorting through hundreds of resumes identify where you might be a good match.
It’s basically a summary of your resume. It’s not all the details. It’s the logline of you. If you already have film experience, I’d lead with what you have done before, such as set decorating, Art Department PA, Camera PA, etc. But if you want to broaden your experience, this is where you can express that as well. Most importantly, let readers know you are flexible, you are motivated, you learn quickly and understand the importance of a deadline. These are soft skills, which I will touch on later.
Make It Easy to Read
As I mentioned, a production office gets hundreds of resumes. Sifting through them is a monumental task and staffers rarely have time to do more than skim, so make sure that your statements are clear and well organized. When I am hiring, I usually scan for relevant skills, films I recognize or people I have worked with. You can use any format, but try not to get too wordy!
Define Skills You Have That Would Serve the Position
Many resume templates have a section for “Skills” or “Highlights.” This is a great place to market your strong points. This is best done with bullet points because you don’t need to use full sentences. It’s just a list. There are two kinds of skills that are important here, “soft skills” and “hard skills.”
If you have hard skills, lead with that. Are you familiar with film lighting? Do you know Avid software? Can you use a walkie-talkie? These are all practical skills. If you have not had experience on a set or in a film office, this is where you would put things like Mac/PC proficient, Word and Excel skills, etc. Many hard skills are transferable, so do some homework about what happens in a production office and on set, and determine what you have to offer. Can you paint? This is an important skill for set construction. Do you speak Spanish? They may need an Assistant to go on location that speaks the language.
Soft skills are as important as hard skills. If you have no film experience, but you have managed a fast-food restaurant, that shows leadership, a very important soft skill. Soft skills are what set you apart. Some of the soft skills that stand out in the film industry are teamwork, a strong work ethic, the ability to take directions, good problem-solving skills, good communication, being a fast learner, being highly motivated and flexible (as I mentioned above).
Soft skills are just as important for people with experience. If you know Avid software, but show up late, are on your phone instead of working and have a surly attitude, I would much prefer to work with someone with no experience who is eager to learn and positive.
This is where you put your actual experience, starting with the most recent first. You can do this by position, or you can do this by production. It depends on what you have done and where you want to work. Some people will treat it more like a traditional resume with the job title, the production company and bullet points of their responsibilities. This is a useful approach for someone who wants to work at a studio or a production company.
On film productions, it’s a little different because the production office is a separate entity from the production company and serves only the production. Where the production company is a permanent installation and might be looking for a full-time Assistant, the production office is hiring crew for the film. The production office usually opens during pre-production and shuts down after wrap. It’s a whirlwind experience and the people who are scanning resumes are crazy busy, so most often they are scanning for something to stand out or to make some kind of a connection, like if they know anyone you have worked with. That is why many people who prefer to work on film crews will organize their film resume by listing their credits — the positions they held on the particular productions they worked on. If you have an IMDb Pro account you will notice that when you pull up someone’s IMDb page, it will list the productions you have in common with the person. That’s because relationships are everything in this industry and people love referrals or to find a candidate that worked on something a colleague of theirs worked on. So when you get that first job, make those connections!
If you have a college degree, you should note it even if it’s not necessarily relevant to film. It’s another way for people to connect to you. You should also put any other education, such as software training, or any workshops or classes you have taken.
Awards and Affiliations
Don’t go crazy here. Try to stick with the highlights. If you have achieved an award at school or a film festival, note it here. Don’t list all laurels or awards; just list the most important and relevant. If you are a member of any professional organizations, such as Women in Film or the Digital Film Society, this is a good place to put that. Again, it’s a way for people to connect to you but also shows that you are professional.
Yes, we have all heard “fake it ‘til you make it.” That might work in some fields, but in film, if you say you can do something you should be able to do it. Not only would lying put the production at risk, it would put your career at risk. If you say you can work a walkie-talkie and you get on set and ask how to use it, you are wasting time and you are wasting an opportunity because they likely won’t call you again. One little mistake can cost a lot of money. That’s why people work for free on no-budget projects so they can get real-world experience and learn from mistakes before the mistakes cost so much.
Nobody has asked any questions...Want to be the first?